Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Elan Davies- First Best Performer in a Play Award in Welsh-language Role

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Cwmni Franwen, Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid yr Urdd, RWCMD, NYTW, Theatr Clwyd, Triongl , Theatre in Wales and London May to September 2023- Part 2 , October 6, 2023
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Cwmni Franwen, Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid yr Urdd, RWCMD, NYTW, Theatr Clwyd, Triongl "Imrie” was a co-production between the Sherman and Frân Wen. Directed by Gethin Evans, written by Nia Morais, performed by Rebecca Wilson and Elan Davies with music by Eädyth Crawford it toured the Sherman, Pontardawe, Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, Mold, Pontio, the Torch, the Riverfront and Pontypridd.

Jon Gower enjoyed it for Nation Cymru:

“The debut of a new writer with lots of things to say is an occasion that might appropriately be marked by a bright blast of trumpets.

“But in the case of Imrie, the first full length play by Cardiff-based Nia Morais it might be more suitable to make some alluring marine sounds using conch shells.

“For it’s a watery and underwatery play about sirens, those mermaid-like creatures of legend that lured sailors to their deaths.

“It’s also about sisterhood and identity and belonging and so much more, all pressed like a concertina into play which features magical, joyous transformations in the world of imagination and legend coupled with some ugly and unpalatable truths about the human realm.

“...Morais cleverly melds and intertwines the prejudices against each sister. In Josie’s case, growing scales on her skin makes of her a monster in other people’s eyes.

“...The world of schoolyards, living rooms and marine caverns is all conjured up, or rather, cleverly suggested by designer Cai Dyfan, lighting designer Ceri James and sound designer Sam Jones all working in tandem.

“Nia Morais’ writing similarly moves deftly between the registers of otherworldly horror and the everyday horror of kids’ unkindness and cruelty with deftness and aplomb.

“It’s a confident and crisply written work that is probing and moving at one and the same time. Very much recommended.”

Excerpts with thanks and acknowledgements from:

As a postscript at the Stage Debut Awards Elan Davies won the Best Performer in a Play award.

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ANGHARAD LEE directed Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid yr Urdd in “Deffro'r Gwanwyn.” The 53-strong company gave DAF JAMES' translation the blast of energy the story it needed.

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RWCMD presented NEW ‘23 in Cardiff and at the Yard Theatre in London. Participants included Philip Ridley and director Wiebke Green, Penelope Skinner and Blanche McIntyre. Mufaro Makubika and Titas Halder.

“Mad Margot” was written by Rebecca Jade Hammond and directed by Jac Ifan Moore.

New short plays written and directed by final year actors from RWCMD were Gabriella Foley’s Flicker, Melodie Karczewski’s The Taste of Healing, Liam Prince-Donnelly’s (un)Packing and Mackie Reyes’ Y?

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The calendar of performance in Wales used to have a regular fixture. In the first week of September the NATIONAL YOUTH THEATRE OF WALES would perform two nights apiece in Mold, Aberystwyth and Cardiff. That meant friends and family had some kind of access wherever they lived. At its best the young company would get a big play of scale by GREG CULLEN.

In 2023 the NYTW became the CYT- the Cardiff Youth Theatre with not a performance to be seen north of Senghenydd Road.

The script was one of those “re-imaginings”, a way of not innovating. In 2023 it was Dylan Thomas, new audiences deprived of hearing his unique voice.

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The previous quarterly summary touched on a paradox of theatre promotion. There is advertising that keeps me at home. Several occurred again.

THEATR CLWYD toured with a new version of “Fleabag” re-set in Liverpool and North Wales. It toured the National Eisteddfod, Rhosllannerchrugog, Caernarfon, Haverfordwest, Merthyr Tydfil, Holyhead, Pwllheli, the Sherman, Theatr Mwldan, Pontio, Theatr Brycheiniog, Aberystwyth and Theatr Clwyd.

It had a great actor and a strong backstage crew. It was probably very good for it was. What it was a brand extension of a London-set piece of television. Radio Wales Cymru gave it an uncritical plug. The dialogue with Branwen Davies for Radio 4's “Front Row” on 2nd August differed:

Interviewer: Initially you said that original Welsh stories were what you wanted to see on stage.

Branwen Davies: I did say that. Why not commission a brand new Welsh play?

Interviewer: David Eldridge has been quite vociferous on behalf of playwrights and you were kind of making a similar point, original plays, original pieces by playwrights need that backing as well, don't they?

Branwen Davies: Definitely. I used to be the literary manager at the Sherman Theatre and I know there is so much talent there. There's some amazing Welsh stories, Welsh playwrights, and just not enough support or opportunities to have that work on stage. The talent is there and it just needs to be supported and shouted out loud about.”

There is a useful heuristic whenever something happens in Wales.

Would this happen in Scotland?.

THEATR CLWYD is Wales' richest theatre company. Would Perth or Dundee or Glasgow from all the possibilities of theatre go out and seek an English television comedy for a national tour? The answer is “no.”

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Triongl toured with “Tree.” Regrettably the advertising did not convince that it was a dramatic situation to last the course of a full-length drama. Comedy needs ice in it and it all gave the impression of amiability.

It also presented the play as prelude to a post-show discussion where everyone could agree with one another. But theatre is an arena, a place where divergence from adherence to the status quo should flourish.

Maybe this is a harsh reading but we read what we read. In the nature of Wales' depleted critical culture it sadly toured without review.

* * * *

A one-actor production “To Be Well In A World That Is Sick?” was promoted as a piece of autobiography. The advertising contained a series of rhetorical questions.

But theatre is not private memoir. It is the art form where one person disagrees with another.

Illustration: Imrie

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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